A young adult's college graduation is, more than any other milestone, the end of childhood. When children graduate from high school at the age of 18 or so, there is still much that they need from parents regarding guidance, advice, care and even, sometimes, discipline. The four years of college are when children begin to learn to manage their lives independent of their parents, and with luck and strength they reach graduation day ready to go out in the world as young adults.
The reality is that there may still be many things that young adults may need from their parents as they take the steps necessary to live on their own. Whether it's financial help or emotional support, parents should be prepared for more than a few visits, phone calls and texts that will leave them wondering if their children are ready for "grown-up" life. The answer is often a mix of yes and no.
The Practical Matters
There are basic necessities that a young adult needs to take care of when starting out. It's tempting to help your young adult with every step, but it's a good idea to allow them to find their way in some instances.
Searching for an apartment or a roommate is one of the first things a parent should step back from with a young adult. While it's helpful to go along for a look at an apartment - especially if the parent is helping out financially - tagging along to meet a prospective roommate is a bad idea.
Accepting a job offer will certainly be a topic for discussion, but it's important for parents to allow their young adults to make the final decision. Though parents may believe they know what's best for their young adult children, sometimes decisions can be clouded by their own interests and values, which may not line up with their children's.
Finding health insurance is a task that parents can comfortably offer opinions and help on without intruding or overstepping. Whether health insurance is offered by an employer or purchased as an individual, parents can give insight into what it means to have a deductible, for a physician to be out of network, or to use mail-order prescription plans.
Buying or leasing a car is often stressful and overwhelming. Parental help can mean the difference between a great deal and getting ripped off, especially if it's the first time a young adult is making such a large investment. Weighing the benefits of different makes and models and purchasing vs. leasing takes time and thoughtfulness. Let the young adult lead the discussion, but be prepared to offer opinions - without sounding judgmental or critical. Unless the parent is paying for the car, it's ultimately the choice of the young adult.
Along the same lines, buying car insurance is another place for parents to get involved. Like with health insurance, understanding the deductible and what the insurance covers are both important to the decision making process.
The Personal Matters
If your young adult is living at home for a while, it's crucial to not parent them as you've done for most of their lives.
While it may be tempting to critique their wardrobe, make their lunch or run their errands, young adults should be encouraged to live on their own and take care of their lives as much as possible.
Try not to pry into their lives too much. The constant stream of communication that some young adults have with their parents is a good thing, to an extent. Waiting for your young adult to offer up information is a much better and more respectful way to interact than probing for bits of information about their friends, love lives and other personal issues.
If you are a worrier, keep it to yourself. Remember that the first year or two out of college can be extremely difficult, between adapting to the real world and finding a social circle or meaningful relationship. If you find yourself concerned about your young adult, make a plan to spend the afternoon together so you can get a feel for how she is doing, rather than telling her you're worried.
It's not unusual for young adults to put on weight after graduating from college. Lifestyle changes, busy schedules and budget constraints can get in the way of healthy habits. Avoid commenting on your young adult's appearance - unless you're asked. Even then, keep your criticism to a minimum. Chances are, whatever changes have occurred, your young adult is well-aware of them.
Still, every so often most of us need a mom or dad to make us feel cared for and protected, especially when we're starting out in life. Listen to your young adult and when you have the chance, let them know that you're there when needed. That's the most important thing of all.